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Friday, August 27, 2010

Swearing up a Blue Streak

How do you feel about the use of swear words in your students' creative writing?

Actually, this one is a red herring for me, a no brainer.  People talk that way. Your writing has to be honest to the way people are.  You have to be truthful to your characters and material.

But I teach at a conservative university, and my students are always asking if it is OK to put swear words in their writing.

We talk about the power of these taboo words.  I tell them stories of sweet old ladies in nursing homes with alzheimers swearing up blue streaks.  These words seem to dwell in a different part of the brain and are the last to be forgotten.

What do I do for those who object to hearing swear words if a poem or story is read out loud in class?

Well, I play it conservatively at a conservative university. I make it the student's responsibility to tell the class before they read something, and I give the students the option of leaving the room.

You know how students love to skip class.  Well, I've never had one student get up and leave for fear of a taboo word.

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